RITUALS AND CEREMONIES
The Uzbek rituals have been accumulating
during many centuries resulting in complicated process of confluence of cultural
skills and traditions of many tribes and nations, which participated in Uzbek
Uzbek rituals are very distinctive, bright and diverse,
many of them related with family life, birth and behaving children, weddings
Spreading of Islam on the territory of Central Asia
brought some Muslim religious features to the Uzbek rituals and made an interesting
mixture of Islamic ceremonies with more ancient forms based on magic practice.
Since that time Friday is consider to be a holyday.
It is "celebrated" reading common Namaz - prayer in the mosques.
Patriarchal customs have continued its existence
in public life, which was concentrated in mosques, tea houses and bazaars
where could take a part only the males.
When visiting any foreign country it is always
polite to respect the local customs and traditions. Uzbekistan is a multinational
country, and besides Uzbek population there are also many other nationalities
with its own mode of life. The following are the general traditions used in
everydays life by many nations living in Uzbekistan.
Greetings, partings, and expressing gratitude
In Uzbekistan people usually greet each other once a day and say
good bye when they leave. With people you don't know well you would use formal
words like "Zdravstvuite" or "Dobryi den/vecher" for Hello,
and "Do svyidania" for Good Bye, and with friends you can say "Privet"
(Hi) and "Poka" (Bye). The word in Uzbek for Hello is "Assalom
Aleikum " (literally "Peace upon your home"), and for Good
Bye -"Hair" or "Salomat buling" ("Stay well"),
if you're the one who's leaving, and "Ok iyul" ("Have a good
journey), if you're the one staying. It may sound complicated at first, but
with time, you will learn all these things and many more.
In the west it is very typical to say "Thank
you" very often and it is considered rather rude when a person does not
use polite phrases like "thank you", "you are welcome",
etc. In Uzbekistan the situation is slightly different. There is no doubt
that Uzbek people thank each other and say "you are welcome", but
they probably do it less than Westeners. So, at the beginning it might seem
a little bit surprising, and you would have to get used to this cultural difference.
Also in Kyrgyzstan you are supposed to say hi to a person only once a day,
if you say hi for a second time they will think you have forgotten that you
have already seen them that day.
In Uzbekistan different words are used to address an unknown
person. If you can manage a few words of the local language or Russian, this
will be very much appreciated. For a female it is "gospozha"(madam),
"zhenshina"(woman), addressing elder Uzbek women say Opa (Mom),
and for a young woman "devushka"(girl) or "Ukadjon" or
"Singlim" if addressing Uzbek girl. For a male it is "gospodin"(sir),
and it is common to call a young man "paren" (boy), "molodoi
chelovek" (young man) or "Uka" or "Ukadjon" for Uzbek
youngsters. Addressing elder Uzbek male say Aka (Older brother) or Ukya for
those from Tashkent.
The words gospozha and gospodin are a very formal
way of addressing people and are when you don't know the person very well,
you would normally use either the gospozha So-and-So or gospodin So-and-So
address or call people by their first name and patronymic ("otchestvo"
in Russian). For example, gospozha Ivanova or Elena Petrovna for female and
gospodin Niuhalov or Artem Dmitrievich for male. With friends you can use
just the first name or even their nick names if have some.
Handshaking is a common social custom in Uzbekistan, but
is used by men mostly. Men shake hands to greet and congratulate one another
and also to say Good Bye (friends, acquaintances, and strangers at a meeting
or a conference). Close friends hug and even kiss, and this is considered
to be normal. Typically men do not shake hands with women. If a man extends
his hand first to a woman, the woman is supposed to shake it. If a woman extends
her hand first to a man, the man would shake it, but this is not a very common
thing to happen. So if you're a woman, just wait till a man initiates it.
In hand-shaking business here, the woman is supposed to take a passive role.
This takes a while for Western women to get used to, and often it is a very
sore point. That a man will walk up to a group of men and women, shake hands
with the men and ignore the women is not a cultural point that one should
get used to, but a difficult custom to change.
Concerning kissing hands (men do so sometimes
when they want to greet women), this tradition does not really exist or lets
say never existed here, but some people (in large cities) can practice it,
but it is rather rare. Sometimes older men may greet young ladies in this
Everybody knows that Westeners usually smile when they talk to
people, and also in pictures. You will not see a big smile very often when
talking to Uzbek people, and they smile even more rarely in pictures. It is
also a cultural thing. People are just not used to smiling a lot (no reason
to, many say), and actually if you're too nice to people, some may think you're
a little strange. But of course, there are exceptions, and you may encounter
people who would be very friendly, polite, and smile at you.
Standard hours of business are from 9:00 to 17:00-18:00. Rush
hour is from 8:00 to 10:00 in the morning, and from 17:00 to 19:00 in the
evening. Lunch time in government and private offices is usually from 12:00
to 13:00, or from 13:00 to 14:00.
Time can be quite relative in Uzbekistan. Depending
upon the situation you're in, you'll find that being late for an occasion
is either appropriate or rude. Here's a "rule of thumb" guide for
when to be on time, early or late.
Rule of thumb
||Be on time (the person you are meeting might be late)
|Lunch with friends
||Be on time/few minutes late
||Be on time
|Dinner at friends
||10-30 minutes late
Uzbekistan is an oriental counrty, the people
here do not have the concept of time and are not very disciplined at keeping
time. They are often late for appointments, business dinners, conferences
and all sorts of other events. It can be very annoying for someone who values
his/her time, but be prepared for that. It is another cultural difference
you would have to if not accept, at least be aware of. You will find that
you are used to making a schedule for the day and trying to keep to it. Here
that is almost impossible. Somebody will hold you up, offer tea and be offended
if you refuse or the car can break down. There is that fine line to walk,
one is to not give in and say, "Listen, you where supposed to be here
at 2, now it is three and I do not have time to meet you now" Or get
used to having a messed up schedule everyday. There is a line in between that
you have to find. If you try to keep to standards that you are used to you
will only get frustrated and upset. If you decide to drink tea and at every
occasion you will end up getting nothing done, somewhere in the middle is
the answer, but it is a hard happy medium to find.
Why are they always late?
We have talked about time already in one of the earlier sections.
You might find it very annoying that people around you in Uzbekistan are not
punctual and do not value time. This would be especially true with regard
to 'guesting'. It's either the hosts will be ready and the guests late, or
the guests on time, and the hosts not yet ready situation. Remember, people
in this part of the world have a different notion of time, and for them time
IS NOT money. In situations like that, the best way to cope is to be a little
bit more patient.
The notion of personal space simply does not exist in this
part of the world. People can come up and stand very close to you, and it
is regarded as something normal. This is especially true in public transport,
as the buses and trolleys are very crowded, and people there may touch your
elbows, push you, or even lean against you. To a Wesener who is used to the
60-cm distance rule, this might be a surprise, a shock and a variety of other
emotions. You might want to back away when talking to people here and they'll
try to come up closer to you again, because that's how they are used to talk.
Awkward and unusual as it may seem to you, please don't take it as an insult.
The answer can be probably found in family traditions, as Uzbeks normaly have
over 5-6 people living together in very limited space.
People in Uzbekistan wear different types of clothes. In villages
you will observe women wearing traditional clothes like long variagated dresses,
kerchiefs, etc. In cities they are less traditional and more modern. As for
male clothing, most men wear pants more often than they wear jeans. Shorts
are worn rather rarely, and by city folks mostly. In rural areas it can provoke
unwelcome attention from the local population. Also, you may notice that,
to your taste, people dress too classy for everyday things like work (especially
women), and not classy enough for special occasions. It is not unusual to
see men dressed in three-piece suits for a football match, or men wearing
jogging suits for concerts at the Music Hall. All of this may strike you,
but it is yet another cultural difference you should be aware of.
The summers often get very hot here, that is
why many people, including government officials and even the Prime Minister
himself, won't wear a suit to work from May through August. A shirt and a
tie for men, and a summer dress for women in an office environment in the
summer are perfectly acceptable. There is one more cultural thing about dressing.
In western countries people tend to alternate their clothing daily, but in
Uzbekistan it is not very typical. You can see that your co-workers, students
and people around you wear the same clothes two or three days in a row. It
does not mean that they do not have enough clothes, or they put on dirty ones.
It is just not very traditional to wear different things every day. Do not
A lot of people smoke in Uzbekistan. There is a law that bans
smoking until 18 years old but it does not seem very effective. Cigarettes
are sold everywhere: at shops, supermarkets, kiosks, "bazaar's",
and no identification with the birth date indicated is required to purchase
cigarettes. That makes it very easy for young people to buy tobacco products,
and smoking is on the increase among the youngsters. Smoking is officially
prohibited in elevators, health facilities, public transportation, and taxis.
Smoking is also restricted in most public buildings (such as museums, markets,
classrooms, offices). Restaurants and cafes usually allow their customers
to smoke inside, and there's usually no division between the smoking and non-smoking
areas. So, if you're a smoker, you won't be happier. If you're a non-smoker,
in most cases, you would have to put up with the cigarette smoke around you.
The purchase and use of alcoholic beverages by people under 18
years old is prohibited by law in Uzbekistan but as well as the low prohibited
cigarettes does not look very effective. Of course, there are always some
regulations or prohibitions at schools and universities concerning bringing
alcohol to these places and drinking it there. But if you're in a shop buying
a six-pack, and you see a 17 year- old do the same thing, don't be surprised.
With regard to the frequency and severity of drinking, we would say that people
here certainly drink more than people in Western countries but less than in
north Central Asian countries. It is a custom for Uzbekistani people to drink
a lot of alcohol for holiday celebrations. The drinks usually vary between
beer, wine, Champaign, and vodka or sometimes altogether.
Being a guest in some Uzbekistani houses, you
may be pressured to drink more than you usually do. If you attend a big event
like a Birthday party or a national holiday, there is going to be a lot of
toasting, and often times people drink "bottoms up" to most of the
toast. If you are a guest of honor (and being a foreigner you may expect to
be one), people would drink a lot to you, and you're expected to knock it
all down no matter how much or little you enjoy it. For someone who is not
used to it, such heavy drinking may be difficult to keep up with, and the
main goal for someone like that would be no to stay sober, but avoid getting
sick. So, if you really do not feel like drinking, just say politely "no"
and do not drink -this is the best way out in such a situation. Often you
may accept one drink, thinking that one means one, but if accept the first
drink custom will often dictate that you drink with the rest until the end
of the bottle. Women have an easier time refusing alcohol then do men. They
say there is a very short period between the first and the second (drink or
sometimes (what happens more oftenly)bottles).
Toasting is a big part of any drinking event, just like drinking
is a big part of any social event. Everybody is supposed to be able to make
a long toast. The longer the toast, the better. Long toast supposedly show
your intelligence. To make a toast is the same as to make a speech before
a big auditorium. Many find pride in being given a toast, and many find offense
in not being offered to propose one. That is why the host or the toast-master
often would not call it a day until everybody has had his or her chance to
propose a toast. Also be sure to pour drinks for everybody, then for yourself,
to pour for yourself first is very odd here.
Since we started talking about drinking, we should move on to
social occasions. During your stay in Uzbekistan you may be invited to a social
occasion like a Birthday party or a wedding. If it's a close friend, one is
expected to bring a gift. If it's a colleague you do not know well, you may
just express you best wishes, and maybe give flowers but usually only for
If you give people flowers, remember one basic rule: the number
of flowers that you bring to different occasions is very important. An even
number of flowers is brought to a funeral. An odd number of flowers is for
any other occasion. You certainly don't want to bring 12 carnations (or roses,
or some other flower) if it's your friend's 30th anniversary.
Sometimes a special occasion may be celebrated
at a restaurant or cafe. Find out in advance when to come and how much money
to bring. In some cases, an invitation may mean that the host is treating,
and in some cases it may be an "Everybody pays for himself/herself' scenario.
Guesting is a big thing in Uzbekistan. People often go guesting
just like that, even without a special reason. If you are invited to a typical
informal Uzbek party, be aware that there are also special seating arrangements
for guests. The eldest person or honored guest is usually invited to sit either
at the head of the table. Young people or hosts sit by the door to act as
"waiters". They bring and take away dishes, pour tea, and do other
things. In general, the younger you are, the more work you do. Going to somebody's
house take some sweets or souvenirs for children.
Some additional things you should be aware of:
- They do not start eating the food until the host invited you to the table.
And, they always let the eldest or honored guests try the food first.
- Please note also that it is not necessary for guests to show up right on
time to a private party, you may be a little late.
- Hosts do not usually ask the "Would you like to drink something?"
question, they just give it to you.
"Taking off the shoes" custom
Most of the time, when people come into somebody's house in Uzbekistan,
they are supposed to take their shoes off in the corridor before going inside
the rooms. Sometimes slippers are offered, sometimes not, and so you would
stay in your socks. If the host of the house permits you to enter with shoes
on, you can violate the "taking off the shoes" custom.
Insist on it
When you go guesting or invite guests over to your place, you
may become a witness to a very peculiar situation. When you offer something
to eat (for example, some chocolate or sweets) to a Uzbekistani person, he/she
tends to refuse after your first try, in which case you would probably think
they do not want it. As a matter of fact, they would love to taste what you
are offering, many people here consider it to be impolite to say No the first
time. If you push a little bit, saying: "Oh, please, take a piece of
it and taste it!" and insist on it, it is only then that they may consent,
saying: "Oh, OK. I will taste it. Thank you.", though, they may
have dreamed about it from the very beginning. So if you have a similar situation,
and offering something to somebody, try several times to make them taste or
take something that you're offering. If you give them one shot only, and they
say No, and then you don't offer again, people would most likely feel ashamed
to ask for it themselves.
Do's and Don'ts
Sitting on the ground: As you know, in Western countries people
(especially students) feel comfortable placing themselves on the ground or
on the floor. In Uzbekistan, you may observe that people have a different
attitude towards it, especially older ones. Most of the older people think
that it is not very good for health (the risk of getting cold), and it is
not very polite to sit on the floor instead of a chair, or on the ground instead
of a bench. Of course, young people worry much less about such things, but
by and large, it is not customary to sit on the ground or the floor. Another
reason for not sitting on the floor might be that the floors are usually not
covered with carpets like they are in foreign countries, and are usually quite
dirty to sit on.
Squatting: In contrast to sitting on the ground,
you will notice that many young people (men, and women in villages) squat.
This looks really strange to someone from the outside, and the thing that
surprises foreigners most is that some people can remain in this position
for good half hour. Strange and unusual as it may seem, it is a cultural thing
that we can not even tell where it originated, but it's something people do
here, and something you will often come across while in Uzbekistan. After
a year or two of practice foreigners also become accustomed to sitting like
this and wonder how they sat before.
Beliefs and Superstitions
The following are some beliefs and superstitions of the Uzbekistani
people. Most of the Uzbekistani people do not believe in them, but some do.
They say it is bad luck
- To meet the woman with empty bucket. (especially in the morning).
- To shake your hands dry after washing them.
- If a black cat runs across your path.
- To laid "lepeshka" (round bread) upside down or on the ground,
even if it is in a bag.
- To ask proffecional drivers about time left before reaching the destination.
(they believe it may cause unexpected problems in the road).
- To leave the bread on the ground.
- To come back home for something you have left there. You can return, but
look at a mirror and everything will be ok.
- To watch a sunrise often, or to get up with the sunrise is good luck.
- When a person returns home (usually after war, service in the army, or being
hospital), before he/she enters the house, take a cup of water and circle
his/her mouth. The person should then spit into the cup. You should leave
outside. It means you leave all bad things and bad spirits outside, and not
- Do not kill a spider. It brings guests to your house.
- Do not sit at the corner of a table/desk, you will not get married ever
or will get bad wife/husband.
- Do not clean table with paper. You will never get married ever.
- Never hit anybody with a broom. You won't be lucky.
- Do not use a broken mirror.
- Do not whistle in the house, especially at night. It brings evil spirits
and you'll be broke.
- Do not give a knife and a clock as a gift.
- If your ears are burning, it means somebody is talking about you.
- If your nose is itching, someone will invite you for a drink.
- Do not sweep the house 3 days after your relatives left for a long jorney,
otherwise they will never come back.
- If knife fall down on the floor wait a man coming soon at your house, if
spoon or fork wait a woman.
- Do not get light a sigarette from candles.
They say you gain more enemies:
- If you sweep the house at night.
- If you wipe a knife with bread.
- If you leave a broom standing against the wall.
- If you step over a lying gun or man.
Regarding babies they say:
- Do not let a baby look at the mirror, she/he will have bad dreams.
- Do not leave baby's clothes outside at night.
- Never say good words about a baby, the evil spirits may be attracted by
and may harm the baby.
They say it is a sin:
- To leave your food on the table untouched.
- To eat food while standing.
- To treat any food scornfully